12 Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Obesity

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Amy Rushlow on May 26, 2021
  • woman-on-pier
    Many Factors Influence Weight
    Your genetics, environment and behaviors all play a role in your weight. While you can't control your genes, you can change your lifestyle. Here's a look at some lifestyle changes that can be beneficial for your health and well-being.
  • woman-sleeping-in-bed-snoring
    1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
    Studies suggest people who don't sleep enough are more likely to have obesity. Sleep deprivation boosts your appetite by releasing the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin. As a result, you're likely to eat more calories than you need.
  • obese-man-sitting-on-chair
    2. Sitting Too Much
    The more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to have obesity — regardless of how much you exercise. And it's not just that you're burning fewer calories when you're sitting: Studies suggest that long periods of inactivity may actually affect your metabolism.
  • man with plate of food and beer
    3. Eating Large Portions
    Portion sizes have ballooned during the past 40 years, which has changed our idea of the normal amount of food to eat at a meal. No matter what you're eating, if you take in more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight.
  • soda-can-tops
    4. Drinking Sugary Beverages
    Drinking fruit juices or sugary sodas — which include high amounts of added sugars — has been strongly linked to obesity. Liquid calories don't fill you up as much as food, so you end up eating more to satisfy your hunger.
  • rice-crackers
    5. Eating Processed Food
    Research suggests people who eat lots of processed foods tend to gain more weight. Processed foods like chips and frozen dinners are often less satisfying than whole foods like fruits, lean meats, and vegetables.
  • stressed-man-with-hands-on-head
    6. Feeling Stressed All the Time
    Stress releases the fat-storing hormone cortisol and may trigger cravings for sweet and fatty foods. Reorganizing your schedule, finding a new hobby or leisure activity, and talking with a mental health professional can help lower your stress levels.
  • obese-man-sitting-on-park-bench
    7. Not Exercising Enough
    Even among people who are genetically predisposed to obesity, physical activity can help maintain a moderate weight. Experts recommend 150 to 300 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking.
  • lazy-man-on-couch
    8. Watching Lots of Television
    People who watch more than two hours of TV per day are more likely be overweight compared with people who watch less. You may be prone to snack more during TV time, eat higher-calorie foods, and consume more calories overall.
  • empty-plate-with-fork-and-knife
    9. Skipping Meals
    While you'd think that cutting out a meal helps cut down on calories, this strategy often backfires. If you go a long time without eating, you may become very hungry and overeat later.
  • sad-woman
    10. Eating Because of Emotions
    Some people eat more than usual when they're sad, stressed, bored, or angry. With time, this pattern of emotional overeating can lead to obesity. A mental health expert can help you process your emotions and improve your quality of life.
  • woman-eating-takeout-fod
    11. Ordering In or Eating Out
    Only 14% of families eat a home-cooked meal together seven days of the week. Dining out just once a week more than doubles your risk for obesity. Restaurant meals are often higher in calories than meals prepared at home.
  • man-drinking-beer
    12. Drinking Heavily
    Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and increase your appetite. Studies suggest people who drink heavily or binge drink have an increased risk for obesity. Experts recommend no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
12 Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Obesity
  1. T. Ahmad et al. Lifestyle Interaction with Fat Mass and Obesity-Association (FTO) Genotype and Risk of Obesity in Apparently Healthy U.S. Women. Diabetes Care. March 2011, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 675-80. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/3/675.long
  2. Just Enough for You: About Food Portions, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, March 2012. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/just_enough.htm
  3. Mind/Body Health: Obesity, American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/obesity.aspx
  4. Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 14, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
  5. Improving Your Eating Habits, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 13, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/eating_habits.html
  6. J.A. Fulkerson et al. Away-from-Home Family Dinner Sources and Associations with Weight Status, Body Composition, and Related Biomarkers of Chronic Disease Among Adolescents and Their Parents. J Am Diet Assoc. Dec 2011;111(12):1892-97. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230299/pdf/nihms333733.pdf
  7. H.A. Raynor et al. Sedentary Behaviors, Weight, and Health and Disease Risks. Journal of Obesity. November 1 2012, published online. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3236513/
  8. C.D. Chapman et al. Lifestyle Determinants of the Drive to Eat: A Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 2012, vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 492-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417212/
  9. Q. Qi et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Genetic Risk of Obesity. The New England Journal of Medicine. October 11, 2012, vol. 376, no. 15, pp. 1387-96. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518794/
  10. D. Mozaffarian et al. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England Journal of Medicine. June 23, 2011, vol. 364, no. 25, pp. 2392-404. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014296
  11. What Are Overweight and Obesity? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, July 13, 2012. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/printall-index.html
  12. S.E. Lakhan and A. Kirchgessner et al. The Emerging Role of Dietary Fructose in Obesity and Cognitive Decline. Nutrition Journal. August 8, 2013, vol. 12, no. 8, published online. http://www.nutritionj.com/content/12/1/114
  13. D. Romaguera et al. Food Composition of the Diet in Relation to Changes in Waist Circumference Adjusted for Body Mass Index. PLOS One. August 17, 2011, vol. 6, no. 8, published online. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0023384#pone-0023384-g001
  14. C. Sayon-Orea et al. Alcohol Consumption and Body Weight: A Systematic Review. Nutrition Reviews. August 2011, vol. 69, no. 8, pp. 419-31.
  15. I.N. Bezerra et al. Association Between Eating Out of Home and Body Weight. Nutrition Reviews. February 2012, vol. 70, no. 2, pp. 65-79.
  16. S. Lourenco et al. The Effect of Current and Lifetime Alcohol Consumption on Overall and Central Obesity. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. July 2012, vol. 66, no. 7. pp. 813-18.

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Last Review Date: 2021 May 26
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